No one is more anxious to get Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and forward/center Kristaps Porzingis on the same floor at the same time than coach Rick Carlisle.
Speaking to TV station LETA this week during a Basketball Without Borders camp in Riga, Latvia, Carlisle expressed what type of impact the Doncic-Porzingis will have not only on the Mavs, but also on the NBA from a global standpoint.
“The league will be very good with those two guys playing,” Carlisle told LETA. “Luka and Kristaps compliment each other well.
“You’ve got a 7-3 guy (in Porzingis) and you’ve got a 6-7 guy (in Doncic) that both have ball skills. They’ll be great in the pick-and-roll, they’ll be great in other situations when they pass and cut and find each other. We’re just really looking forward to getting them on the floor together and get going.”
Carlisle, Porzingis, and Mavs assistant coach Jamahl Mosley were all participants this week at Basketball Without Borders. This is where the top male and female athletes from Europe ages 17 and under converged for a four-day camp so they could get some hands-on coaching from NBA and FIBA players and coaches.
Doncic averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists this past season and is the heavy favorite to win the Rookie of the Year trophy, which will be announced during the NBA Awards show on June 24 in Santa Monica, CA. Meanwhile, while playing for the New York Knicks, Porzingis averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks before suffering a season-ending torn left anterior cruciate ligament during a Feb. 6, 2018 game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Two weeks before that crucial injury, Porzingis was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as his star was on a definite incline. Porzingis hasn’t played since sustaining that injury and was subsequently traded to the Mavs on Jan. 31.
“Right now it’s really about his health and getting him 100 percent healthy, 100 percent strong and preparing him for an entire NBA season,” Carlisle told LETA. “He’s done an awful lot of work over the last two years since the injury.
“He’s worked really hard since coming to us in February, and so we feel like he’s going to be able to be 100 percent and be ready to go come training camp.”
Porzingis become a restricted free agent at the end of this month, and Carlisle said the plan is to sign the Latvian to a contract this summer.
“He’s a free agent on July 1,” Carlisle said. “We have to get him re-signed and then he’ll have a program through the summer.
“(Training) camp starts, I believe, Sept. 30, this year, so the plan is for him to be ready to go on Day One.”
Porzingis told LETA that he is completely healed from his injury, and that he and Carlisle talked to a specialist about basketball and about every day things.
“I like spending time with Carlisle,” Porzingis told LETA. “He is the same fan of basketball as I am. We talked about the upcoming season and what role (I’ll have on) the team.
“Carlisle also showed some combinations and ways we could make a game through me. I also told him where and how I would like to play better.”
As far as what position Porzingis will play, Carlisle is not a fan of locking players into any particular position.
“I’m not big on exactly what position guys play,” Carlisle said. “We want basketball players that know how to play the game and know how to make plays.
“He’ll play a combination of (power forward) and (center). He’ll play mostly (power forward) on offense and he’ll play some (center) on defense. It’ll depend on matchups, but I love his versatility defensively as well as offensively.”
Many fans have compared Porzingis to Dirk Nowitzki, a 14-time All-Star and the NBA’s No. 6 all-time leading scorer who just retired two months ago after playing 21 seasons for the Mavs.
“There are similarities between Kristaps and Dirk Nowitzki,” Carlisle said. “They’re both seven-footers that can really shoot the ball, but Kristaps’ game is quite different than Dirk’s.
“We’ve had great success in Dallas playing with a seven-foot guy that can shoot the ball, so we have a lot of experience with how to enable him to play well and help us win games.”
During Porzingis’ rookie season – in the 2015-’16 campaign – Kevin Durant affectionately described him as the “unicorn,’ because of his extraordinary skill set. It’s a skill set that causes defenses all sorts of problems.
“I wasn’t familiar with the nickname until he came to us,” Carlisle told LETA. “I like it. It’s a great compliment.
“I think he’s going to prove that he really is a unique guy and can do a lot of things that nobody else can do, which is great.”
In 48 games with the Knicks during the 2017-’18 season, Porzingis shot 43.9 percent from the field and a healthy 39.5 percent from 3-point range. Then came the injury.
“The important thing is that he’s getting over his injury right now,” Carlisle said. “He was able to practice with the team late in the year, which was great for him and great for us.
“He’s doing great. This is a big summer, training camp will be here soon and we’ll be right into it.”
And right into showing what type of impact the Doncic-Porzingis combination will have on the NBA from a global standpoint.